Zidane praises Madrid spirit after late comeback

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed his side’s never-say-die spirit after they hit back from behind to sink Sporting Lisbon in their UEFA Champions League Group F opener.

Real trailed to Bruno Cesar’s first-half strike and looked set to suffer a rare defeat at the Bernabeu before Cristiano Ronaldo fired an 89th-minute free-kick to equalise against his former club.

And remarkably there was still time for Real substitute Alvaro Morata to break the visitors’ hearts when he headed past Rui Patricio in injury time to grab the win.

Zidane told a press conference: “We are happy because we kept going until the end and we didn’t give up.

“Sometimes you meet an opponent who plays very well but our players were tremendous, they made an enormous effort and they got their just reward.

“I don’t know if the result was fair or not, but it’s clear we believed. You have to play until the end, change things, and the good thing is we are focused and a united team.”

Real had been fortunate not to slip further behind in a game in which they created few chances and looked to have missed their last chance when Ronaldo rattled the crossbar with eight minutes remaining.

And despite another win which maintains his side’s excellent start to the new season, Zidane admitted there is still plenty more improvement to come.

He added: “It wasn’t a perfect match but the important thing was to win and later we will analyse things. We can play better, especially in the first half.

“In a game like that when you take three points from such a hard game it shows a lot of quality. Today we suffered but we got the three points.”

Sporting boss Jorge Jesus praised his own side’s performance but admitted their failure to concentrate on seeing the game through for a famous win cost them dear.

Jesus said: “We were excellent until the 88th minute and the Madrid substitutes helped change the game – when their new players came on we lost a bit.

“I think we played a great game but we need a bit more experience. The Ronaldo goal was great – he’s the best player in the world and that happens.

“No side will play here in Madrid as well as we have done. We didn’t give them a single chance in the first half, but there’s a reason why they’re European champions.

“They have that mentality and reputation and changed the game in two minutes.”

Press Association Sport